Purdue fell to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament final on Sunday, as the Wolverines led by as much as 18 before narrowing the deficit down the stretch in a 75-66 game.
The third matchup between the two teams took a dramatically different turn from the previous two. Both were Purdue victories that were close until the very end, with the combined margin of victory at only five points. This one was different, as Michigan was the convincingly superior team for about 36 minutes. Then Purdue came back to make a game of it in the final minute, but it wasn’t enough and Michigan got to celebrate its second straight Big Ten Tournament title.
Michigan’s defense had just clamped down on Nebraska and Michigan State, and this game was more of the same.
Here are three quick takeaways:
Purdue ran into Michigan’s buzzsaw defense, and the results weren’t pretty
This went along with our prediction for this game:
Moe Wagner, Michigan’s best offensive player, didn’t hit a shot from the field in the first half Saturday. Michigan was shooting 31 percent at halftime against Michigan State, but only trailed 29-26 because the Spartans weren’t lighting up the scoreboard, either.
Defense is why Michigan is in such a good spot against Purdue in the title game.
Purdue seems like a good matchup for Michigan’s defense. Those teams played down to the wire in each of their two games this season, and Purdue came out on top both times. Behemoth center Isaac Haas gave Michigan trouble in both games, scoring 17 points in January and 24 in February. But Michigan’s defense is playing better than it was during either game, and Purdue was lights-out on 3-pointers in those two wins.
Backup center Jon Teske helped contain Isaac Haas just enough after the latter got off to a hot start, and no one else was particularly effective for Purdue’s offense. Carsen Edwards was inefficient, Vince Edwards didn’t get many shots off and Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson combined to be less-than-satisfactory from deep.
Purdue looked doomed for most of the game, then made it a competition again in the final minute
Michigan led 18 points with six minutes remaining in the game, and Michigan was ready to party. Purdue didn’t give up, though, and was a missed shot or two away from really making it a game.
Michigan missed some free throws down the stretch to give the Boilermakers an extremely slim chance, and they made it competitive. But Michigan didn’t completely collapse, and came away with the win.
Purdue now turns to the NCAA Tournament
ESPN’s bracketology has the Boilermakers as a No. 2 seed. That seems right, and a trip to the championship game is usually enough for any high seed to at least keep its spot. That said, Purdue now has to sit and wait while other major conferences just start their conference tournaments. There are a lot of hot takes about how this extended break will affect Big Ten teams, but there’s no sure way to tell right now. If anything, Purdue might need it to get everything in order before the Big Dance starts.
Selection Sunday is in a week on May 11.